COMPOSERS: Andrea And Giovanni Gabrieli,Caldara,Frescobaldi & Cavatti,Monteverdi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sacred Music from Venice and Rome
WORKS: Missa Bell’ Amfitrit’ altera
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: 13602 DDD
Although Antonio Caldara died over 200 years after Orlandus Lassus was born, there’s a startling similarity about their music. The dark polyphony of Caldara’s 16-part Crucifixus is a late, conservative manifestation of the high Renaissance manner of Lassus’s Missa Bell’Amfitrit’altera whose disposition for double choir also looks forward to the spatially distributed forces of Giovanni Gabrieli’s Hodie completi sunt. These and the works by Andrea Gabrieli, Cavalli, Monteverdi and Frescobaldi (represented by two typically quixotic organ pieces) all testify to the rich and highly personal sacred choral traditions which flourished in Venice and Rome in the 16th and 17th centuries, an important characteristic of which was an almost tactile delight in the sensual properties of choral sound for its own sake.
This disc has previously been available only as part of a two-CD Renaissance Anthology, but although the programme is an attractive one, its reissue as a separate item is, I feel, unwise. Such luxuriant music calls for a bit more passion than the disarmingly British reticence offered by The Sixteen. They sing with their customary elegance and precision, but a sharper edge to the lines is needed to clarify the somewhat muddy textures as well as greater involvement with the sentiments of the texts which, after all, deal with extreme emotional situations – experiences which 17th-century Italians, no less than 20th-century ones, would no doubt have taken rather more closely to heart. Antony Bye